|As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.|
|New Clause.—(COMPENSATION FOR DEPRECIATION OF OTHER LAND IN SAME OWNERSHIP.)|
|(1) This section applies, in relation to a compulsory rights order, to any land which—|
|(a) does not form part of the land comprised in the order, or of any holding to which section sixteen or section twenty-eight of this Act applies, but|
|5||(b) immediately before the operative date of the order, is land wherein the interest of the owner is held by a person who is also the owner of the whole or part of the land comprised in the order.|
|10||(2) Where a compulsory rights order has become operative, and in the case of any land which, in relation to that order, is land to which this section applies (in this and the next following subsection referred to as "the relevant land") it is shown that for any year (being either the year beginning with the operative date of the order, or a year beginning with an anniversary of that date and falling within the period of occupation) the annual value of the relevant land is less than the annual value of that land would have been if—|
|15||(a) the land comprised in the order had not included any of the owner's land comprised therein, and|
|(b) all the owner's land comprised in the order had remained in the state in which it was immediately before the operative date,|
|20||the person who is for the time being the owner of the relevant land shall be entitled to compensation from the Board for that year of an amount equal to the difference.|
|(3) Subsection (2) of section seventeen of this Act shall apply for the purposes of the last preceding subsection as it applies for the purposes of that section, so however that the appropriate circumstances referred to in the said subsection (2),—|
|25||(a) in determining the annual value of the relevant land for any year, shall be taken to be the actual circumstances existing immediately before the beginning of that year, and|
|30||(b) in determining what would have been the annual value of the relevant land in the circumstances specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of the last preceding subsection, shall be taken to be the circumstances specified in those paragraphs:|
|Provided that in either case the relevant land shall be assumed to have been available for letting with vacant possession immediately before the beginning of the year in question.|
|35||(4) Where a compulsory rights order has become operative, and in the case of any land which, in relation to that order, is land to which this section applies it is shown that the value at the end of the period of occupation of the interest in that land which then constitutes the interest of the owner thereof (in this and the two next following subsections referred to as "the owner's interest in the relevant land"), computed in accordance with paragraph (a) of the next following subsection, is less than the value of that interest computed in accordance with paragraph (b) of that subsection, the person who at the end of that period is entitled to the owner's interest in the relevant land shall be entitled to compensation from the Board of an amount equal to the difference.|
|45||(5) For the purposes of the last preceding subsection there shall be computed the following values, that is to say,—|
|50||(a) the value at the end of the period of occupation of the owner's interest in the relevant land, assessed on the assumption that, in so far as any of the owner's land comprised in the order has not then been restored to the condition in which it was immediately before the date of entry, there will be carried out on that land in due course all such work as would qualify for compensation under section twenty-one of this Act;|
|55||(b) the value which, at the end of the period of occupation, the owner's interest in the relevant land would have if the entirety of the owner's land comprised in the order were in the state in which it was immediately before the date of entry.|
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Sir Ian Horobin)
I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
This new Clause has been put down to fulfil an undertaking that I gave in Standing Committee to deal with an injustice, in the Bill as it then stood, to the owners of land. The position was that in the Bill we had improved the compensation position of occupiers by allowing the compensation to be assessed over the whole of their holding but, in the course of doing that, we had, as I explained in detail to the Standing Committee, left the owner in the position that he could not claim compensation for injurious affection in cases similar to that in which he would have been so able to claim if his land had been compulsorily purchased. I also explained that it was impossible for the Government to go beyond that, and to offer compensation in cases of injurious affection relating to land not in the same ownership, as that would make a breach in the general compensation law.
I should explain briefly to the House that this Clause has to be accompanied by consequential Amendments to the Sixth Schedule. It will also be necessary 684 to introduce, in another place, certain technical consequential Amendments to Clause 33, which deals with the time when compensation accrues due; to the Fifth Schedule, which deals with minerals, and to the Tenth Schedule, which deals with certain transitional provisions. However, they need not trouble us now.
As in other cases in this Bill, the compensation dealt with under the Clause falls into two parts: the annual value while land is in possession of the National Coal Board, and terminal compensation afterwards. I do not think that at this late stage of the Bill—unless any questions should arise—the House would wish me to spend time in going further into the details of the Clause, beyond assuring right hon. and hon. Members opposite, as I think is right, that we have taken care in subsection (6), as with previous changes in compensation, to ensure that there is no double payment. The chief circumstance in which this could arise is where the land is subject to a long-term tenancy where the rent cannot be reduced. In those circumstances, of course, the landlord would not have suffered any damage, and it would be unreasonable for him to obtain annual compensation when he was in fact, still receiving the full rent under the tenancy. Subsection (6) ensures that that position is preserved—
§ Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)
Would the hon. Gentleman make clear one point in that statement? In the case of a tenant being so affected by subsidence that he must leave his holding, to whom would the compensation be paid, having in mind that the owner of the land is already receiving the rent? What about the tenant?
§ Sir I. Horobin
The Clause is not addressed to that point at all. The provision for compensation to be payable to the tenant for damage of that kind is to be found in other parts of the Bill. This Clause is directed simply to the situation in which the owner of land, part of which is taken but the rest is damaged, will be able to receive compensation for the damage done to the land that is not part of the holding. That is all that this Clause deals with. I tried to explain the necessity for it, in much greater detail, in Standing Committee.
We must be quite clear. The other compensation Clauses deal, rightly or wrongly, with the general compensation. All this Clause is concerned with is injurious affection to land in the same ownership, but which is not part of the same holding. If it is part of the same holding the question does not arise because, as we all know, that is already dealt with in other parts of the Bill. This Clause deals simply with land that may be owned by a man and damaged by the Coal Board, but in which the land that is damaged may not be part of the holding and, therefore, may not attract compensation under the other Clauses of the Bill.
Perhaps I may give an illustration that I gave earlier. Suppose we have a valuable house looking out over a site that has been taken and damaged by opencast mining, but the land surrounding the house is not part of the holding where the opencast work is being done. It may be a park or a farm which has been let out. In those circumstances, the fact that a house might be very seriously damaged would not entitle it, under the Bill as presented to the Committee, to any compensation at all. All we are doing in this Clause is putting that injustice right, to ensure that if land in the same ownership is being damaged by opencast operations, it will attract, broadly speaking, the same type 686 of compensation as is attracted by land where it is in the same holding.
That is all that the Clause does. It commended itself to the Committee; I gave an undertaking that I would deal with it, and that is the object of the Clause.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Lewisham, North)
The undertaking which the Parliamentary Secretary gave to the Standing Committee to introduce this new Clause was one which he gave to himself, because he raised the point—nobody else did—and he thought it was one that ought to be met.
We do not view this new Clause with great favour, because it appears to us to be giving an unnecessary degree of advantage to the bare owner based on his bare rights of ownership. Perhaps I could explain what I mean with reference to the example which the Parliamentary Secretary himself gave. What is worrying him is this: imagine a man who owns a very nice house in which he lives. He also owns a quantity of agricultural land adjoining, but he does not farm it himself. He lets the farm out to someone else. The National Coal Board carries out opencast coal operations on the farm. They do not touch the owner's house at all. The result is that the amenity value of his house is affected, and it is for that amenity value that the Clause intends he should be compensated.
Without this Clause the owner would not be entitled to compensation because none of the land which is in his occupation is being taken by the Board at all. Compare the position of that owner with his neighbour who also lives in a nice house, but does not happen to own the farm. He suffers the identical loss of amenity value in his holding, but he gets no compensation at all.
The Minister's answer, no doubt, will be that the first owner, one must imagine, acquired the farm to protect himself and to protect the amenity values of his home. That is a good nineteenth century answer. But we live in different days now, and now, with modern planning control, when the second owner to whom I have referred bought his house he will have inquired what were the planning proposals for his neighbour's land, including his neighbour's farm, and he will have learned, as 687 all other prospective purchasers will have learned, that that land will, as far as can be foreseen, remain as agricultural land, and therefore, he will buy his house, paying as part of the purchase price for the amenity value which derives from that farm.
He will suffer just as much financially as well as in terms of amenity, as will the man who happens to be the freehold owner, the owner of the reversion, of the agricultural land affected. This would apply not only to a neighbouring owner of a nice house, but to an owner of a simple cottage. It applies to everyone. We feel that if compensation for loss of amenity value is to be given, it ought to be given to everyone.
We are inclined to think that the proper course is to draw the line where the line was drawn in the original Bill. One must acknowledge the fact that in all these attempts to do justice in compensation there always will be someone just outside the line, wherever it is drawn, who will have ground for complaint, and that a proper course, therefore, is to give compensation to people who were the occupiers of land that was actually taken, and not to extend compensation for mere loss of amenity value beyond that.
The neighbouring owner, the second man in the example that I gave, under the Bill will or may have rights against the Coal Board to bring a common law action for nuisance, but he is in no different position there, I think we are now agreed, from the owner himself who lives in a nice house. He will be able, as I am advised, to bring an action for nuisance in the same way as anyone else. The effect of this new Clause is to give a special benefit to the owner based solely on his property rights without regard to the fact that he will be suffering no more and no less than his neighbour.
There is one other point that I would make on the contents of the new Clause, and that is to draw attention to the fact that the Clause as drawn, in my view, supports our case on what we consider to be one of the main defects of the Bill, to which I hope we shall have an opportunity to refer in today's debate. The point arises in this way. We consider that one of the defects of the provisions for compensation in respect of further cost of 688 works to be carried out after the land has been restored to the owner is that it does not enable either the Coal Board or the owner to know in advance what further cost of works will be considered as reasonable and will qualify for compensation.
In Committee, we put forward various alternative proposals on how this situation might be met, and none of them found favour with the Government. It was considered impracticable at the end of the period of occupation to determine in advance what further works should be carried out and what should be considered reasonable. But when we look at the provisions of this proposed new Clause we find that this is precisely what the Clause demands that the valuer shall do at the end of the period of occupation in assessing the compensation which is to be payable.
This arises in subsection (5, a) of the proposed new Clause, where it says that he has tovalue at the end of the period of occupation … the relevant land"—that is, the land not taken—assessed on the assumption that, in so far as any of the owner's land … has not then been restored … there will be carried out on that land in due course all such work as would qualify for compensation …Those words are further defined in subsection (7, b), which says:any reference to work which would qualify for compensation … is a reference to work for the purpose of further restoring that land … being work in respect of which … expenses would be treated as reasonably incurred …The valuer is expected in his omniscience to be able to know at the end of the period of occupation what are the further works in respect of which expenses would reasonably be incurred, yet the Government say, or have said up till now, that there is no reasonable way in which that matter can be determined as between the Board and the owner. I hope that the introduction of this phrase means that we are to have some concessions from the Government on this point, to which we attach great importance.
§ Sir I. Horobin
I should like to say a word or two about the points made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot). The last one, I think, we had better discuss later, but, in any 689 case, I think it is based upon a misconception, because we are here merely assimilating these compensation provisions to the general compensation provisions. The difficulty is admittedly there, but there is no new point raised in this new Clause as compared with the Clauses which deal with the terms of compensation in any case.
I agree, as, I think, does everybody who has looked into these compensation matters, that it is quite impossible, under our complicated land system, to provide complete justice for everybody. However, this is not at all the case which the hon. Gentleman made that, apparently, there is something wrong, as I understood him, in basing a claim for compensation on the fact that a man happens to own something. It is still not a crime to own things, although the Inland Revenue sometimes treats us as if it were. The basis for our approach is quite different.
As regards the cases which the hon. Gentleman took, he said quite rightly that, in the matter of loss, they are exactly on a par. Nobody disputes that. The difference between the two, upon which this new Clause is based, is simply that the one who will not be compensated under this Clause never had any rights or powers to stop the development. It may be wrong that he had not, but he had not any such rights, leaving nuisance entirely on one side. We are all liable to be damaged by development next to us if town planning permission for it can be obtained. The people who are being compensated by this new Clause could have protected themselves in the absence of compulsory powers. That is the difference. They could have said to the Coal Board, "You shall not damage my house." In the other case, they could not have said that, for they had no rights. The people with whom we are dealing could have done so.
It seems clear, therefore, that there is a difference, which is enshrined in our present law of compulsory purchase compensation, namely, that these people, having suffered injurious affection which they could have stopped, in the absence of compulsory powers, are a separate case and are entitled to compensation. I do not pretend for a moment that, as a result of all this, we can say that everybody we should like to have compensated will be compensated. All I do say is that we have compensated certain people who would 690 have been compensated if their land had been purchased instead of being subject to C.R.O., and who are a separate case, having definitely suffered damage. In our opinion, therefore, they are morally and, now, we suggest, legally entitled to compensation.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
The Parliamentary Secretary is right in the facts which he has presented to us, but I should like to ask him one question about something he said in Standing Committee on this very matter. He said that the owner of a house might be occupying that house at his own will yet might have let off to another farmer the whole of the farm which he owns and that, therefore, the new Clause which the hon. Gentleman has now brought before us is designed to provide compensation for the owner of both farm and house but to separate the two hereditaments. As a consequence, the new Clause is to provide for compensation for the owner of the house.
In Committee, the Parliamentary Secretary referred to the owner of a holding. Surely the holding was the farmhouse and private garden attached thereto, together with the farm. Therefore, would it not have been more equitable if we had described this as the land outside any Order? Do I take it, from what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, that in all cases where an individual owns a farmhouse and land and has let the land off to another farm, himself not being engaged in farming but merely occupying the house at his own pleasure, it is not intended to apply a C.R.O. to the whole of the owner's land, which would include the house, but that the farm is to be separated from the house?
I should have thought that, in most cases where an individual was in such a position, letting the whole of the farm but retaining the ownership, he would probably have had included in the whole of the C.R.O. the house and garden as well as the land adjacent to it. Shall we not, later in the Bill, be discussing questions about how far or how near to such a habitation opencast workings will go? Does it mean, therefore, in view of what the Parliamentary Secretary said in Committee, and what he has said this afternoon, that it is intended always to separate the residence from the farmland, if, in fact, the owner of both happens 691 to be using the residence purely as a home and has let the farm to another farmer for agricultural purposes?
§ Sir I. Horobin
The short answer is that, of course, the C.R.O. cannot in any case cover occupied dwellings of that kind. We were illustrating this, I think, in the case the right hon. Gentleman is now pursuing, but, as far as the actual house itself is concerned, it cannot be subject to a C.R.O., though it can be damaged.
§ Mr. G. H. Oliver (Ilkeston)
There is one point that I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to clear up. I have tried to follow the Parliamentary Secretary very carefully. He said that the owner of land which has been affected by opencast workings has a right to protect himself irrespective of this new Clause. Surely that cannot be right. Once the C.R.O. is granted, he has no power. He may endeavour, when the authorisation is being sought, to resist it, but once the authorisation has been given to the Coal Board and the Board is vested with the order, there is nothing he can do if his property is damaged, unless the Clause so provides.
The new Clause does not provide for the unfortunate person who does not own the land. Perhaps he is a neighbour, or somebody in the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot).
§ Sir I. Horobin
So far as I follow the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), he is quite right: once the C.R.O. is there, the owner has no further powers in this matter. But that is not the point. The point arises from the difference between him and the type of owner cited by his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot), who, in circumstances before the C.R.O. and in the absence of the compulsory powers we are dealing with, had no right to object at all. He has, therefore, lost nothing compensatable.
In the absence of any of these powers, if the Coal Board or anybody else came down on the land, as it is envisaged might happen, he would have no right to object, in the absence of nuisance. In the case we are considering, however, he would. He could have prevented the Coal Board coming on by agreement. 692 That is the distinction. In the one case, therefore, we say that, just like anybody else in the unfortunate position of having a power station established which emits grit all over his land, he just cannot stop it if the authority has town planning permission. On the other hand, he can stop it if the authority wants to do it on his land.
In the one case, if one's land is bought, one does not receive any compensation, but, in the other case, one can obtain it for injurious affection. I will not go into all the refinements of separation, and so on, but, broadly speaking, if an authority takes a bit of one's land and damages the rest, one can obtain compensation if it is bought.
What we are doing is to provide that, if after a C.R.O. on a part of one's land, the authority damages the rest, one can still obtain compensation for injurious affection. In very broad terms, we are assimilating the law of C.R.O. to the law of C.P.O. I am very carefully saying "in broad terms" because, as hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite know very well, there are certain points which arise. In broad terms, all we are doing here is to say that, in the kind of case where a man can obtain compensation for injurious affection if the land has been bought, he shall have his compensation if the land is made subject to a C.R.O.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) to move the Amendment to the proposed new Clause, I would point out that there appear to be three Amendments later on the Notice Paper which may be related. There is the Amendment to Clause 16, page 20, line 12, in the name of the right hon. Member for Blyth and other hon. Gentlemen, to leave out "operative date" and insert "date of entry", and there is an Amendment in page 21, line 4, again in the name of the right hon. Gentleman, to leave out "operative date" and insert "date of entry." Later, there is another Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members, to Schedule 6, page 75, line 32, to leave out "operative date" and insert "date of entry". Is it possible that all these Amendments raise points which could be discussed now?
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Robens
It is possible to take them all together, Sir. It is a matter of a principle. The other Amendments would automatically follow upon this one if the Government see fit to accept the first one.
§ Mr. MacDermot
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 11, to leave out "operative date" and to insert "date of entry".
I think it would be convenient to discuss all four Amendments together, Mr. Speaker. They all deal with precisely the same point. As far as the new Clause is concerned, the Amendment is of a consequential nature. It bears very little relevance to the subject matter of the new Clause.
The Amendments arise out of the Government Amendment to Clause 4, on page 2831 of the Notice Paper, in page 6, line 3. That is the Amendment by which the Government propose, as the result of an undertaking given in Committee, that the Board should be required to give 56 days' notice to the date of entry instead of 28 days' notice after the operative date before they become entitled to enter upon the land. The purpose of these Amendments is to provide that in those circumstances, and anticipating that that Amendment will be passed, the annual compensation, the rental compensation, and the additional compensation, the loss of profits compensation, should, in these circumstances, all date from the date of entry, not from the operative date.
The operative date is, as it were, a purely notional date to the farmer. It is the date from which he starts measuring the period when he is liable to be dispossessed, and it is the date from which he knows he must set about doing certain necessary things to end his occupation, such as selling up his stock and implements that he does not want to keep. Of course, in practice he will have had informal notice a considerable time before that. No doubt he will have been given an indication in his discussions with the Board, but that is the legal position.
We feel that if there is to be this extended period it is not right that the Board should have to pay compensation from the operative date, when the farmer will have had the extended period of 56 days, during which he may continue to 694 occupy and, in some circumstances, to occupy very profitably. I suppose that the kind of circumstance in which this point might arise most sharply would be a not unusual one, namely, where the Board had arranged matters so as to take occupation very shortly after the end of the harvest. I understand that, in practice, that is the normal thing that is done.
Naturally enough, the Board waits until the farmer is able to take in his crops and harvest before it starts its opencast coal operations. If one imagines that situation, the harvest will be lifted in the 56-day period. As matters stand at present, the result would be that the farmer would get both the value of the harvest and also his compensation for loss of profit under Section 18 as if he had never had his harvest, because his Section 18 compensation would be back-dated to the operative date and would be based on the purely hypothetical profit that he would have earned from the operative date.
This is a case where we all want to be generous to the farmer within reason, but we feel that it would be over-generous to him and would place an undue and unfair burden upon the Board. For these reasons, we propose that the compensation should date from the date of entry.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I beg to second the Admendment.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster-General, Who has just come into the Chamber, will pardon our persistency and help us upon the Amendment.
We had considerable discussion in Standing Committee upon the point at issue. We have not changed our minds, but after the promise given by the Parliamentary Secretary we were hoping that he would at least change the situation in the new Clause. It would appear to the layman that there is a very slight difference between this side and the Government side, but to the farmers there is a great difference. The question is: when shall compensation begin? Shall it begin on the date of entry, or shall it begin on the day that the opencast coal mining operations begin?
The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Sir A. Braithwaite) will agree with me, because he is a farmer, that in some cases the prospectors, who are engaged by the 695 National Coal Board, enter on the estate or on the farm of the farmer and remain for eighteen months and even longer. During their prospecting they do a considerable amount of damage. I know that they do not do that damage intentionally, but in the process of boring operations they are bound to upset the farmer's land, and they may upset it at a very important time.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Mac-Dermot) said, they may come in during harvest time. It must be remembered—and I know that you have some knowledge of this, Mr. Speaker—that there are different harvesting times for different crops. The prospectors may come in during early August, late September, or in November. Crops are being gathered in many farms practically the whole of the year.
The short point is, should compensation begin on the day that the opencast coal operations begin, or should it begin from the day of entry? Hon. Members opposite say that the Government are anxious to ensure fair play, to act honestly and to deal justly with the farming fraternity. In my judgment, unless they accept the Amendment, they are not dealing fairly or honestly with the farming fraternity.
I made reference in Committee—and the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) made play about this point—to "bleeding boreholes." I was not responsible for the coining of that phrase. It was coined by the legal luminaries in a compensation claim. They referred to the bleeding boreholes which had been left by prospectors and borers, and a considerable amount of damage was experienced by that farmer. After all their boring and prospecting they failed to find the coal resources simply because they were not there.
Will anybody say that to refuse compensation to that farmer is right, honest and just? The farmer allowed the prospectors to enter under Section 61 of the Defence Regulations. In the nation's interest, he let them come on to his land. After they had been given permission to occupy his land and had retarded the normal procedure on the farm, they then said, "We shall have to give it up. We have failed to find the coal sections. There are no coal resources here. We shall 696 clear off." Are we to deny that man compensation?
The Government said in Committee that they wanted to be honest and fair and to be helpful and amenable. I cannot bring myself to think that the Government are acting fairly. I hope that they will accept the Amendment. It would make the provisions of the Clause more fairer, more just and more honest to the farmers on whose land opencast operations have to take place.
§ Mr. Harold Neal (Bolsover)
We are indebted to the Parliamentary Secretary for reminding us that the introduction of the new Clause is in fulfilment of a promise he made in Committee, but I do not recall that it is in response to any plea from Members on this side that the Clause should be drafted in the way we find it today. There seems to be a partiality about the Clause which does not appear in other features of the Bill.
It seems unreal and unfair that annual compensation, rental compensation and compensation for loss of profits should begin on the operative date rather than upon the date of entry. It might satisfy us on this side if the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us how the annual value could be lessened before the date of entry. I can well imagine that by the time that 10,000 tons of coal have been extracted from a site the depreciated value is noticeable; but on the day before even the surveyors enter the land I cannot see how the value can be depreciated.
Those who are actively concerned in this matter must surely laugh at this generous provision for those who are to receive compensation in this way even before the Coal Board has "smelt" the ground. I shall be pleased if the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us how this is justified by proving that value can be lessened even before the date of entry.
§ Sir Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
I have only one point to put to the sponsors of the Amendment, who have raised the question of compensation for a farmer who has got his crops in. A point about which I am not happy, if the Amendment is accepted, is that a farmer who, for instance, is a milk producer and has a pedigree milk herd knows that he has to finish with the herd in, say, two months' time. Naturally, he will have to sell his milk herd early in advance. He then 697 waits—one does not know how long—until the Coal Board comes in, in which case he is making no money whatever.
I would like to have that point cleared up. As far as I can see, the point made by the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) is that the farmer might be paid double compensation for his harvest. That is most unlikely. There must, however, be a continuing damage to a person who sells off in advance and then has to wait three or four months until the Coal Board comes in. Under the Amendment, the farmer would get no compensation whatever.
§ Sir I. Horobin
First, we should dispose of the misconception of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown), who seconded the Amendment. The whole object of the Amendment, right or wrong, is to reduce the compensation to farmers. That, I assure the hon. Member, is the object of the Amendment and it was made clear by his hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) and by his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Neal). To use a colloquialism, the hon. Member was rather "off the beam".
All questions of what happens during prospecting are irrelevant to the Amendment, because prospecting must in the nature of things take place before the operation of the compulsory rights order. What we are concerned with in the Amendment is the period of time—56 days, it may be—between the compulsory rights order and the date of entry. Therefore, the whole of the discussion as to whether damage could be done by prospecting and whether the farmer should be compensated for it is beside the point. The object of the Amendment is to reduce the money paid by the Coal Board to the farmer and we must discuss it on that basis.
I am not saying that we can be 100 per cent. certain that exact justice is done, but, on balance, as my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley (Sir P. Roberts) pointed out, the Clause as drafted is right and I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed. Let us be quite clear that we are now dealing with land upon which a compulsory rights order has become operative.
§ Sir I. Horobin
It is no use the hon. Member shaking his head. Perhaps one of his hon. Friends will be able to persuade him. We are dealing with land upon which a compulsory rights order has become operative.
It is true that the extent of damage that can be done before anybody has started digging will normally be much less than after the digging has been begun, but it is not reasonable for anybody to argue seriously that no damage can be done. In cases where a change of tenancy or ownership takes place, the damage might be serious. If a man had to get rid of his tenancy, he would suffer serious damage, because nobody would take over land knowing that in 56 days the Coal Board was coming to start digging. Therefore, damage can take place, although in most cases it will be slight and the extent of it will be taken into account in the calculations which are made.
Concerning the harvest, an additional point which should be made is that in nearly all cases—I dare say, in all cases—it is the sensible practice of the Coal Board, which, I am sure, will be continued, that its entry would take place after, and not in the middle of, a harvest. There might be circumstances in which it became extremely important to do otherwise, but the Board has usually been reasonable in these matters. In practice, even if it were not fully taken account of, as it is in the calculation of compensation, it would not be likely to be important. The point is that once land is subject to a compulsory rights order, it can be depreciated and, therefore, we should not from the very start cut out all rights of compensation.
As we are discussing at the same time, I understand, later Amendments in which the same points arise, I should like to make clear, in case it may have been overlooked by the drafters of the corresponding Amendment in Clause 16, page 20, line 12, that it would have a very undesirable effect. I am advised that the same principle which they have attempted to apply would have the preposterous effect that the expenses of vacating possession under Clause 19, which, obviously, would normally be incurred before the date of entry, would, if the Amendment at that point were accepted, result in the occupier receiving no compensation at all. I am sure that hon. Members opposite 699 do not expect that result, but their Amendment would have that effect.
The short point of all these Amendments is that once a compulsory rights order has become operative, the possibility and likelihood of damage to the annual value of the land occurs. That being so, we ought not from the start to cut out any possibility of compensation. The Amendment would not deal with the question of whether it was properly calculated. I think that the provisions in the Bill would have the desired result, but in any case the Amendment would not deal with that point. This Amendment would cut out any right to compensation for any damage, even if it did occur, within that period of 56 days. On balance, I think that the House will feel that it would be wrong not to compensate the occupier if he can establish damage.
§ Mr. MacDermot
The Parliamentary Secretary has put forward weighty arguments, and I say at once, on the point to which he has directed our attention, that the effect of the Amendment on what I call the forced sale compensation in Clause 16 is not one which we had envisaged, and it is not the effect which we intended. If we can, even at this late hour, persuade the Minister to change his mind, we would invite him to give effect to our intention much more effectively than the way in which we have done it ourselves.
There is here a real difficulty which ought to be faced, but which is not being faced, and I am confirmed in that view by the Minister's assurance that it will continue to be the practice of the Board to time its entry so as to enable the farmer to get his harvest in. The sensible thing is for the Board to come in as quickly as possible afterwards, because the farmer cannot do anything with the land after he has got his harvest in. He cannot prepare it for a new harvest. Everybody's time will be wasted if the Board does not start as soon as possible after the harvest is in.
What the Minister says is that the order becomes operative at the operative date, but that is so only in a legal sense, and the way in which it becomes operative is that that is the moment as from which the Board can take the first step which it has to take under the order, such as giving this notice to the farmer 700 of the date on which it is to enter. Let us remember that under Clause 4, that date is to be, at the moment, not less than 28 days. We are assuming that the Government Amendment will be accepted, so that it will be not less than 56 days after the first publication, and not more than six months after the operative date. The period that we have in mind, to which the hon. Member for Heeley (Sir P. Roberts) referred, is a period which amounts at most to six months and at the least now to 56 days.
If, and we are assured that it will continue to be so, the date of entry is to be timed to come just after the end of the harvest, it means that the farmer will be able to get his harvest in, get all his profit for that year's farming in the form of his harvest, and yet have his compensation backdated as if he had never got his harvest in at all. As I understand, the Minister does not seek to deny that at all. I will give way if—
§ Sir I. Horobin
I should make this perfectly clear. As I envisage this procedure, it would not be so. I think that anybody having had his harvest would find that that would be taken into account in the compensation which he received, but I was answering the point that the number of cases in which the question would arise would be small, because the operation would be so timed as to ensure that cases of this kind do not arise. I do not accept for a moment that the annual compensation provisions, with which we are not directly concerned in these Amendments, would enable a farmer to obtain his profit, plus compensation for loss of profit.
§ Mr. MacDermot
In view of that, it would appear that we are at variance in our interpretation of the compensation provisions, and I am sure that it would be wearying and detaining the House if we attempted to argue the matter more fully now. It seems that we are at one in our intention, namely, that there should not be a duplication of compensation to the extent that I have envisaged, or, to put it another way, that a farmer shall not be entitled to compensation on the basis of loss of profit when in fact he has made his profit, and perhaps a very substantial profit, and not lost it at all. I would urge the Minister to undertake to look at this point again.
701 Perhaps I should try now to answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Heeley. What he envisages is the case in which the farmer receives his notice of entry from the Board giving a date, say, four or five months hence. The farmer has a dairy herd, and he finds an opportunity of disposing of his herd which he thinks it is wise to take, and he does so. He may do so two or three months before the expiry of that notice and before the actual date of entry. The result is that he ceases to earn any income or profit on that herd from the date on which he disposed of it.
I readily agree and concede that, as we have drafted our Amendment, that farmer would suffer loss of profit during that two or three months' period, and would receive no compensation for it. I quite agree about that, but what I would urge is that the number of cases in which injustice would operate that way against the farmer would be fewer if our Amendment were accepted than the number of cases in which injustice would operate against the Board if matters stand as they are now. Perhaps a solution, can be found whereby this annual compensation, and, more important, loss of profit can be determined as from the date when the loss begins to be suffered. I do not know whether a formula could be found which would assist in that way.
Meanwhile, I submit that the most frequent contingency will be that the Board will give notice of entry to take possession very shortly after the harvest is got in, because that is the time when it would be wise to enter, and it would be sensible to enter upon the land as soon as possible and not waste time. The land is of no use to the farmer once he has got his last harvest in, but under Clause 18 as it stands, as I understand, the position is that loss of profit is not to be based on the loss which has actually been incurred during that period, but is to be based on a hypothetical calculation of the profit based on the profit he was earning in previous years.
The result is that if that is dated back to the operative date before the time of the harvest he will get both rental compensation and loss of profit compensation as from the operative date, which ignores completely the profit that he has, in fact, made out of that harvest. There will be a duplication. There are difficulties about 702 it and arguments both ways, but I feel that the scales are loaded too heavily against the Board. I should like the Minister to look at the matter again and see whether he cannot introduce an Amendment in another place which will provide a fairer result to all concerned.
§ Sir I. Horobin
As the hon. and learned Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) has said, to argue this matter at full length is almost impossible, and the difficulties of drawing the line anywhere are by now fairly clear to all of us.
I am very chary of holding out any hope, at this late stage, of a further Amendment to this Clause. We have done our best to put it in the right place. In view of what the hon. and learned Member has said, I will, of course, look at the point, but I must make it absolutely clear, at this very late stage of the Bill, that we must reach finality at some time. We have done our best to hold the balance fairly between the farmers, who are, in any case, having a rather rough deal in some ways with opencast coal mining operations, and the Coal Board, which has its duty to do.
I will look at the point, but hon. Members must be quite clear that I am making absolutely no promise at all to introduce a change, because I feel that one change at this stage will be found inevitably to lead to claims for another. I think that we have drawn the line as close as we can to the right place. I will look at the point again on that understanding.
§ Question, That "operative date" stand part of the proposed Clause, put and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.